Hot Tub Time Machine 2 - Review: Drained of ideas

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Hot Tub Time Machine 2 - Review: Drained of ideas

“Why didn’t you laugh?.... because I’ve heard that one before”. Some jokes and comedy moments are timeless. You can re-hear them and still laugh about them until the end of time. Others are only great that first time, losing their power once the surprise has been removed.... and there’s nothing wrong that provided you let it rest in peace. Comedy is like time; the only way is forwards. You may get lucky on a re-make or a re-hash but the only way to really deliver results is to keep being creative and challenge yourself to approach the same subject in a different way. It’s such a simple formula for success that it becomes painful to see so many comedy sequels get it wrong. Even if the roots of a sequel depend on some degree of familiarity of association you still have to give an audience something new to laugh at. Now the 2010 80s throwback, Hot Tub Time Machine, becomes the latest in a historic line of good comedy films (admit it, you liked the first one) cannon balling back into cinemas with just another warn out version of itself. This second dip drowns in number two.

After the now super famous Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry – Warm Bodies, Sex Tape) gets shot , his reluctant son Jacob (Clarke Duke – Greek, Kick Ass) and best friend Nick Webber (Craig Robinson – The Office, Get On Up) plunge back into their favorite aquatic time machine to change the past only to wind up in an alternative future in which Lou’s killer actually resides.

The first tub wasn’t shy about playfully referencing time travel movies and this no different from a running gag of Nick comparing everything to Terminator to more recent entries like Looper. The change is that this gag has grown to encompass the entire film as this sequel is basically Back To The Future 2 drowned in dick jokes (getting shot in dicks, injected in balls, “dickpads” and plenty more). The depleted gang (John Cusack saw this bullet coming) use audience familiarity with the base material as an excuse for wandering about aimlessly with minimal attempt at a plot. Yes there’s a few affirmative character life lessons sprinkled on the top to offer a little moral backbone. Some even come close to achieving this in the final act but they’re not relevant enough through all that proceeds to carry enough impact. Instead we just watch pointless amounts of drinking and drugs scenes or a needlessly drawn out game show centered on virtual reality anal sex that just isn’t funny. In does find good humour in some place though. The idea self aware Smart Cars going all Cyberdyne Systems makes a nice running gag. There are a few good meta jabs at other time travel projects, like how the future looks all too much like the present and taking things like paradoxes to the levels of stupidity that some films have done in complete seriousness. There are few good laughs from Nick’s song theft based music career. At one point he even performs his own version of Lisa Loeb’s Stay only to have the real Lisa (now just a cat handler) show up. Finally there’s a brief but enjoyable society reflecting moment as it’s discovered all the most popular TV shows in the future are based on violence and suffering like “Toddler in the Jungle” and “Building Explosions”. It’s a nice extrapolation on the increasingly immoral desires of modern audiences; a glimmer of intelligence that should have been more prominent given the possibilities of the subject matter.

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The trouble with the heavy emphasis on film repetition is that all bar the last 10 minutes of the first film are now inaccessible. All 80s nostalgia is flushed away along with repeating their past events to preserve the future (which they’re now in and don’t know what will happen). Instead it’s just a case of trying to re-create the best improved moments from last time like plenty of “you look like” jokes or ripping on Jacob subject matter knowledge (now complete with highly un-catchy song). All this would of been ok if the re-teaming of director Steve Pink (Accepted, About Last Night) and writer Josh Heald could come with decent material for the genuinely funny cast to work with but instead they’ve just pulled the plug and watched their creativity drain away. Following Cusack’s exit they try to re-invigorate things with a new gang member in Adam Scot’s (Step Brothers, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) distant future relative but he spends most of the film being an annoying guy in a skirt. Chevy Chase even gets dragged out again for a token explainer scene before making the smart choice and vanishing.

In terms of the cast the bigger names involved still raise some smiles but overall they’ll need to fall on rather harsh times before considering a third dip. Corddry just goes too over the top making his character out to be a dick to lose all reliability. Robinson does commit well to his musical material but ambles through the rest. Clark Duke actually fairs worst of all offering nowhere near the geeky charm he normally delivers. Adam Scott sends his great recent form down the drain. Christian Slater makes a terrible appearance as a game show host many other supporting faces, old nor new do nothing but damage their careers.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is based surmised in on moment half way through when a character manages to work the films name into conversation just like in the first film..... only this time you won’t laugh or even care that it happens. Just like this is comedy sequel that you won’t care was made. It won’t change how you feel about the original or make you feel anything for itself other than the odd grin and mild boredom. Like anyone who’s been on a drunken ski lodge bender knows; a Hot Tub is no place for a deuce.

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